Wisdom - Sophia (Greek Word Study)

Wisdom (4678) (sophia, compare saphes = clear) is the ability to judge correctly and to follow the best course of action, based on knowledge and understanding.

Sophia is used 6x in Colossians - Col 1:9, 28; 2:3, 23; 3:16; 4:5 (clearly it is a key word)

Sophia - 51x in 49v - Mt 11:19; 12:42; 13:54; Mk 6:2; Lk 2:40, 52; 7:35; 11:31, 49; 21:15; Acts 6:3, 10; 7:10, 22; Ro 11:33; 1Cor 1:17, 19ff, 24, 30; 2:1, 4ff, 13; 3:19; 12:8; 2Cor 1:12; Eph 1:8, 17; 3:10; Col 1:9, 28; 2:3, 23; 3:16; 4:5; Jas 1:5; 3:13, 15, 17; 2 Pet 3:15; Rev 5:12; 7:12; 13:18; 17:9 NAS = cleverness, 1; learning, 1; wisdom, 49.

Faith (pistis) and wisdom (sophia) occur together in Acts 6:3-5, 8-10; 1Cor 2:4-7; Eph 1:15-17, 3:10-12; Col 2:3-5, 3:16,17; James 1:3-5. Wisdom ("God's clarity" or "God-revealed clarity") conveys the Lord's solution for problem-solving. In other words, sophia manifests God's persuasion about solving problems or challenges by applying His solutions. Like faith, wisdom is always given by the Lord and reveals how to please Him in a particular situation. In short, this is real clarity! Ultimately all true spiritual wisdom resides in Christ, the Personification of perfect wisdom (1Cor 1:30).

See Bishop Trench's article on synonyms - sophia, phronesis (5428), gnosis, epignosis

Trench - In Scripture sophia is ascribed only to God or to good men, though it is used in an ironic sense by adding "of this world" (1Cor 1:20), "of this age" (1Cor 2:6), or similar words (2Cor 1:12). None of the children of this world are called sophoi without this tacit or expressed irony (Lk 10:21). They are never more than those "professing to be wise" (Ro 1:22). If sophia includes striving after the best ends as well as using the best means mental excellence in its highest and fullest sense then wisdom cannot be separated from goodness. (Wisdom - Trench's Synonyms of the New Testament)

Sophia - 138x in the Septuagint - Ex 31:3; 35:26, 31, 33, 35; 36:1f; Deut 4:6; 2 Sam 14:20; 20:22; 1Kgs 2:6, 35; 3:1; 4:29; 5:12; 1Chr 22:12; 28:21; 2Chr 1:10ff; 9:3, 5ff, 22f; Ezra 7:25; Job 4:21; 11:6; 12:2, 12f; 13:5; 15:8; 26:3; 28:12, 18, 20, 28; 32:7, 13; 33:33; 38:36f; 39:17; Ps 37:30; 49:3; 51:6; 90:12; 104:24; 107:27; 111:10; Pr 1:2, 7, 20, 29; 2:2f, 6, 10; 3:5, 13, 19; 4:11; 5:1; 6:8; 7:4; 8:1, 11f; 9:1, 10; 10:13, 23, 31; 11:2; 14:6, 8, 33; 15:33; 16:16; 17:16, 28; 18:2; 20:29; 21:30; 22:4; 24:3, 7, 14; 28:26; 29:3, 15; 30:3; 31:5; Eccl 1:13, 16ff; 2:3, 9, 12f, 21, 26; 7:10ff, 19, 23, 25; 8:1, 16; 9:10, 13, 15f, 18; 10:1, 10; Isa 10:13; 11:2; 29:14; 33:6; Jer 8:9; 9:23; 10:12; 49:7; 51:15; Dan 1:4, 17, 20; 2:20f, 23, 30; 5:14

Thayer makes an excellent point that wisdom is "used of the knowledge of very diverse matters, so that the shade of meaning in which the word is taken must be discovered from the context in every particular case."

Spiritual wisdom is godly wisdom (contrasting with worldly wisdom - study and make a list of the contrasts in Jas 3:13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 1Cor 1-2) which involves living life in the light of the revelation of God’s Will in His Word and applying this knowledge to specific situations. Biblical wisdom is definable as skill for living. God's plan to redeem us destroyed the wisdom of the worldly wise men (1Cor 1:19). In fact, human wisdom never could comprehend God's plan for salvation (1Cor 1:21). Paul was not bound by the limits of human wisdom because the Holy Spirit conveyed spiritual wisdom through him (1Cor 2:13). Human wisdom is totally inadequate to accept God's salvation (1Cor 3:18,19).

Spiritual wisdom is given only by the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament, Solomon exemplified this wisdom (Matt 12:42). When Jesus came, His wisdom also outshone the wisdom of the wisest among men (Matt 13:54). This wisdom was seen in the Lord Jesus, even when He was a small Boy (Luke 2:40,52). When leaders became necessary in the Jerusalem church, the apostles set about to select men who possessed this spiritual wisdom (Acts 6:3).

Wisdom is the insight into the true nature of things. Knowledge is the mental possession of powers of perceiving objects, wisdom is the power of right reasoning concerning them and forming right decisions accordingly.

Wisdom is the ability to judge correctly and to follow the best course of action, based on knowledge and understanding.

Wisdom is the art of being successful, of forming the correct plan to gain the desired results. Its seat is the heart, the centre of moral and intellectual decision

Sophia emphasizes understanding of ultimate things—such as life and death, God and man, righteousness and sin, heaven and hell, eternity and time.

Sophia is mental excellence in its highest and fullest sense (Vincent, M. R. Word studies in the New Testament. Vol. 3, Page 1-129).

Sophia is used frequently in the New Testament to describe the ability to discern and conform to God’s will.

Charles Simeon - True wisdom is the gift of God—Even earthly wisdom must in reality be traced to God as its author. The persons who formed the tabernacle and all its vessels derived all their skill from God: and even those who move in a sphere which may be supposed to be suited to the meanest capacity, and spend their lives in the common pursuits of agriculture, can no farther approve themselves skilful in their work, than they are instructed by God Himself (Is 28:23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29). But spiritual wisdom is still farther out of the reach of unassisted reason, because it is conversant about things “which no human eye has seen, or ear heard, or heart conceived, and which can only be revealed by the Spirit of God.” (1Co 2:9, 10, 11, 12) It is emphatically “a wisdom which is from above,” (Jas 3:17) and which can “come only from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (Jas 1:17-note with Mt 16:17) The Spirit of God, whose office it is to impart it unto men, is called “the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord;”(Is 11:2-note) and to him are we directed “to open the eyes of our understanding,” (Ep 1:18-note) and to “guide us into all truth:” since it is only by the unction derived from him, that we can possibly attain a spiritual discernment. (James 1 - Charles Simeon - The Way to Obtain True Wisdom)

Salmond - “Sophia is the collective moral intelligence, ‘insight into the true nature of things’ (Lightfoot) and in the Pauline Epistles it is this intelligence in especial as knowledge of the divine plan of salvation long hidden and now revealed; while phronēsis is the practical use of wisdom, the product of wisdom, ‘the right use and application of the phrēn (the mind)’ (Trench), the faculty of discerning the proper disposition or action. The riches, the abounding riches, of the grace expended on us stood revealed in the bestowal of these gifts of spiritual discernment with reference to the deep things of the divine counsel and the divine revelation “ (Expositor's Bible Commentary - Salmond)

William Barclay - see his discussion of wisdom (Topic "The Wrong Kind of Wisdom" and "True Wisdom" - James 3 - William Barclay's Daily Study Bible). Other comments on wisdom by Barclay…

Col 2:3 Wisdom is sophia (Greek #4678) and knowledge is gnosis (Greek #1108). These two words do not simply repeat each other; there is a difference between them. Gnosis (Greek #1108) is the power, almost intuitive and instinctive, to grasp the truth when we see it and hear it. But sophia (Greek #4678) is the power to confirm and to commend the truth with wise and intelligent argument, once it has been intuitively grasped. Gnosis (Greek #1108) is that by which a man grasps the truth; sophia (Greek #4678) is that by which a man is enabled to give a reason for the hope that is in him.

1Cor 12 (God's Differing Gifts) The Greek word we have translated wisdom is sophia (Greek #4678). It is defined by Clement of Alexandria as "the knowledge of things human and divine and of their causes." Aristotle described it as "striving after the best ends and using the best means." This is the highest kind of wisdom; it comes not so much from thought as from communion with God. It is the wisdom which knows God. Knowledge--the Greek word is gnosis (Greek #1108)--is a much more practical thing. It is the knowledge which knows what to do in any given situation. It is the practical application to human life and affairs of sophia (Greek #4678). The two things are necessary--the wisdom which knows by communion with God the deep things of God, and the knowledge which, in the daily life of the world and the Church, can put that wisdom into practice.

Ephesians 1 - There is wisdom and sound sense. The two words in Greek are sophia (Greek #4678) and phronesis (Greek #5428), and Christ brought both of them to us. This is very interesting. The Greeks wrote much about these two words; if a man had both, he was perfectly equipped for life. Aristotle defined sophia (Greek #4678) as knowledge of the most precious things. Cicero defined it as knowledge of things both human and divine. Sophia (Greek #4678) was a thing of the searching intellect. Sophia (Greek #4678) was the answer to the eternal problems of life and death, and God and man, and time and eternity. Aristotle defined phronesis (Greek #5428) as the knowledge of human affairs and of the things in which planning is necessary. Plutarch defined it as practical knowledge of the things which concern us. Cicero defined it as knowledge of the things which are to be sought and the things which are to be avoided. Plato defined it as the disposition of mind which enables us to judge what things are to be done and what things are not to be done. In other words, phronesis (Greek #5428) is the sound sense which enables men to meet and to solve the practical problems of everyday life and living. It is Paul's claim that Jesus brought us sophia (Greek #4678), the intellectual knowledge which satisfies the mind, and phronesis (Greek #5428), the practical knowledge which enables us to handle the day to day problems of practical life and living. There is a certain completeness in the Christian character. There is a type of person who is at home in the study, who moves familiarly amidst the theological and philosophical problems, and who is yet helpless and impractical in the ordinary everyday affairs of life. There is another kind of person who claims that he is a practical man, so engaged with the business of living that he has no time to concern himself with the ultimate things. In the light of the gifts of God through Christ, both of these characters are imperfect. Christ brings to us the solution of the problems both of eternity and time.

Marvin Vincent on Sophos and Sophia

Sophia is mental excellence in its highest and fullest sense.

1Cor 1:19 Wisdom - prudence (σοφίαν - σύνεσιν ) The two words are often found together, as Exodus 31:3; Deuteronomy 4:6; Colossians 1:9. Compare σοφοὶ καὶ συνετοί wiseand prudent, Matthew 11:25. For the distinction, see, as to σοφία wisdomon Romans 11:33; as to σύνεσις prudenceon Mark 12:33; Luke 2:47. Wisdom is the more general; mental excellence in its highest and fullest sense. Prudence is the special application of wisdom; its critical adjustment to particular cases.

Eph 3:10 Manifold wisdom (πολυποίκιλος σοφία) A very striking phrase. The adjective occurs only here, and means variegated. It is applied to pictures, flowers, garments. Ποίκιλον (poikilon) is used in the Septuagint of Joseph's coat, Genesis 37:3. Through the Church God's wisdom in its infinite variety is to be displayed - the many-tinted wisdom of God - in different modes of power, different characters, methods of training, providences, forms of organization, etc.

James 3:13 - In the New Testament sophos is used -

1. In the original classical sense, skilled in handicraft (1Corinthians 3:10).

2. Accomplished in letters, learned (Romans 1:14, Romans 1:22; 1Corinthians 1:19, 1 Corinthians 1:26; 1 Corinthians 3:18). So of the Jewish theologians and doctors (Matthew 11:25), and of Christian teachers (Matthew 23:34).

3. In a practical sense, of the practice of the law of piety and honesty; so Ephesians 5:15, where it is joined with walking circumspectly, and 1 Corinthians 6:5, where it is represented as the quality adapted to adjust differences in the church.

4. In the higher, philosophical sense, of devising the best counsels and employing the best means to carry them out. So of God, Romans 16:27; 1 Timothy 1:17; Judges 1:25; 1 Corinthians 1:25. In this passage (James 3:13) the word appears to be used in the sense of 3: practical wisdom in pious living. "Knowledge is proud that she has learned so much, Wisdom is humble that she knows no more.”

Ro 11:33 - Wisdom - knowledge (σοφίας - γνώσεως) Used together only here, 1Corinthians 12:8; Colossians 2:3. There is much difference of opinion as to the precise distinction. It is agreed on all hands that wisdom is the nobler attribute, being bound up with moral character as knowledge is not. Hence wisdom is ascribed in scripture only to God or to good men, unless it is used ironically. See 1Corinthians 1:20; 1Corinthians 2:6; Luke 10:21. Cicero calls wisdom “the chief of all virtues.” The earlier distinction, as Augustine, is unsatisfactory: that wisdom is concerned with eternal things, and knowledge with things of sense; for gnosis knowledge is described as having for its object God (2Corinthians 10:5); the glory of God in the face of Christ (2Corinthians 4:6); Christ Jesus (Philemon 3:8). As applied to human acquaintance with divine things, gnosis knowledge is the lower, sophia wisdom the higher stage. Knowledge may issue in self-conceit. It is wisdom that builds up the man (1Corinthians 8:1). As attributes of God, the distinction appears to be between general and special: the wisdom of God ruling everything in the best way for the best end; the knowledge of God, His wisdom as it contemplates the relations of things, and adopts means and methods. The wisdom forms the plan; the knowledge knows the ways of carrying it out.

Bullock - In the Old Testament wisdom at one level describes skilled arts and artisans, like weavers (Exodus 35:25-26 ), architects (Exodus 35:30-36:1 ), and goldsmiths (Jeremiah 10:9 ). At a second level, wisdom was keen insight into life and ways of dealing with its problems. Solomon was associated with wisdom in this sense (1 Kings 3:1-15 ; see also 1 Kings 4:32-34 ), although the term used was "understanding, " which occurs often as a synonym of wisdom. At a fourth level, the terms "wisdom" and "wise" apply to men and women who represent a way of thinking and conduct that is orderly, socially sensitive, and morally upright. Thus, the major thrust of wisdom in the Old Testament was a code of moral conduct. This is especially represented by the Book of Proverbs, which gives instruction on personal behavior from the discipline of children (Pr 22:6) to the golden-rule treatment of one's neighbor (Pr 24:29). The goal of wisdom was to build an orderly and functional society that reflected the moral requirements of God as set forth in the law of Moses. (Wisdom - Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology)

Harry Hunt - Real Wisdom Is the Fear of God Three basic definitions of wisdom summarize the status of the field of study very well. Note that the first two of these definitions are quite secular in nature while the third is religious. First, wisdom is considered by many to be simply the art of learning how to succeed in life. Apparently, ancient persons learned very early that there was an orderliness to the world in which they lived. They also learned that success and happiness came from living in accordance with that orderliness (Proverbs 22:17-24:22). Second, wisdom is considered by some to be a philosophical study of the essence of life. Certainly, much of the Books of Job and Ecclesiastes seem to deal with just such existential issues of life (see particularly Job 30:29-31). Third, though the other definitions might include this, it seems that the real essence of wisdom is spiritual, for life is more than just living by a set of rules and being rewarded in some physical manner. Undoubtedly, in this sense wisdom comes from God (Proverbs 2:6). Thus, though it will involve observation and instruction, it really begins with God and one's faith in Him as Lord and Savior (Proverbs 1:7; Job 28:28).(Wisdom and Wise Men - Holman Bible Dictionary)

Charles Buck - (Wisdom) Denotes a high and refined notion of things, immediately presented to the mind, as it were, by intuition, without the assistance of reasoning. In a moral sense, it signifies the same as prudence, or that knowledge by which we connect the best means with the best ends. Some, however, distinguish wisdom from prudence thus: wisdom leads us to speak and act what is most proper; prudence prevents our speaking or acting improperly. A wise man employs the most proper means for success; a prudent man the safest means for not being brought into danger. Spiritual wisdom consists in the knowledge and fear of God. It is beautifully described by James, "as pure, peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy." James 3:17 (Wisdom - Charles Buck Theological Dictionary)

In the time of Homer, wisdom was an attribute but in some Greek writings sophia was not infrequently used to describe shrewdness and cunning. To the Greeks sophia was never an action, as saying wise words or doing wise deeds. In fact, in ancient Greece wisdom had a practical aspect, for a "wise" carpenter was one who knew his trade well. In Greek culture the College of Seven Sages was distinguished by both wisdom and political discernment. According to Socrates, wisdom was knowing how little one really knew. Aristotle equated wisdom with "philosophy." The Stoics described wisdom as the application of knowledge. In the Septuagint (LXX), the Greek translation of the Old Testament, is used 135 times, and in the first use Jehovah tells Moses that…

And I have filled him (Bezalel in preparation for the task of fashioning and constructing the tabernacle) with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship" (Exodus 31:3)

Comment: Notice how God's work is to be done with God's wisdom and not worldly wisdom

In Deuteronomy Moses instructed Israel that they should "keep and do them (statutes and judgments which Jehovah had commanded Moses Israel to carry out in the land they were entering to possess it), for that is your wisdom (LXX = sophia) and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise (sophos) and understanding people. (Deut 4:6)

Wisdom is sometimes personified, as in the Proverbs as special knowledge, mainly knowledge concerning Jehovah ("Wisdom shouts in the street. She lifts her voice in the square" Pr 1:20). When Solomon prayed for wisdom to rule, "Now God gave Solomon wisdom and very great discernment and breadth of mind, like the sand that is on the seashore." (1Kings 4:29) And so "so King Solomon became greater than all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom. And all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart." (2Chronicles 9:22, 23) which is what led the Queen of Sheba to come and see and then declare "How blessed are your men, how blessed are these your servants who stand before you continually and hear your wisdom." (2Chronicles 9:7)

In what is considered to be the oldest book in the Bible we read Job's thoughts on divine wisdom:

But where can wisdom (LXX = sophia) be found? And where is the place of understanding?… "Coral and crystal are not to be mentioned; and the acquisition of wisdom (LXX = sophia) is above that of pearls." So what was the source of this valuable resource? "And to man He said, 'Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom (LXX = sophia) and to depart from evil is understanding.' (Job 28:12, 18, 28)

Below are a few examples of verses from Psalms (7 uses of sophia) and Proverbs (43 uses of sophia, compared with 25 uses in Ecclesiastes) which use sophia in the LXX:

Psalm 37:30 The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, And his tongue speaks justice. (Spurgeon's Note)

Psalm 51:6 - Behold, Thou dost desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part Thou wilt make me know wisdom. (Note)

Psalm 90:12 (Moses prays) So teach us to number our days, That we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom. (Spurgeon's note)

Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 2:2 Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding;

Proverbs 2:6 For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.

Proverbs 2:10 For wisdom will enter your heart, And knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;

Proverbs 3:13 How blessed is the man who finds wisdom, And the man who gains understanding.

Proverbs 3:19 The LORD by wisdom founded the earth; By understanding He established the heavens

Proverbs 8:11 "For wisdom is better than jewels; And all desirable things can not compare with her.

Proverbs 11:2 When pride comes, then comes dishonor, But with the humble is wisdom.

Proverbs 16:16 How much better it is to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen above silver.

Proverbs 29:3 A man who loves wisdom makes his father glad, But he who keeps company with harlots wastes his wealth.

Proverbs 29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom, But a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.

Vine - While sophia is the insight into the true nature of things, phronesis is the ability to discern modes of action with a view to their results; while sophia is theoretical, phronesis is practical” (Lightfoot).

Paul sums up spiritual wisdom and knowledge with the truth that in Christ "are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." (Col 2:3-note, cf 1Cor 1:24, 30)

It is not enough to have knowledge -- one has to have wisdom to be able to use that knowledge correctly. Knowledge enables us to take things apart, but wisdom enables us to put things together and relate God’s truth to daily life.

Wuest comments that wisdom or sophia “was a great word with the Greeks. With them the word included the ideas of cleverness and skill in handicraft and art, skill in matter of common life, sound judgment, intelligence, practical wisdom, learning, speculative wisdom, natural philosophy and mathematics” (Liddell and Scott). Trench says that sophia is recognized in the NT and in Christian writers as expressing the highest and noblest in wisdom. He says; “We may affirm with confidence that sophia is never in Scripture ascribed to other than God or good men, except in an ironical sense… For, indeed, if sophia includes the striving after the best ends as well as the using of the best means, is mental excellence in its highest and fullest sense,… there can be no wisdom disjointed from goodness.” Thayer says that when sophia is used of God, it refers to supreme intelligence such as belongs to God… Expositors says; “Sophia is the collective moral intelligence, ‘insight into the true nature of things’ (Lightfoot) and in the Pauline Epistles it is this intelligence in especial as knowledge of the divine plan of salvation long hidden and now revealed." (Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament)

Wisdom is the right use of knowledge:
All true spiritual wisdom is found only in Christ

Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary adds that "The biblical concept of wisdom, therefore, is quite different from the classical view of wisdom, which sought through philosophy and human rational thought to determine the mysteries of existence and the universe. The first principle of biblical wisdom is that people should humble themselves before God in reverence and worship, obedient to His commands. This idea is found especially in the Wisdom Literature: the books of Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. In the Old Testament, the best example of a “wise man” is King Solomon (1Ki 10:4,6, 7, 8). And yet the same book that heaps such lavish, warm, and glowing praise upon Solomon for his reputed wisdom (1Ki 4:29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34) also points out how Solomon’s heart turned away from the Lord (1Ki 11:1–13)." (Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., Harrison, R. K., & Thomas Nelson Publishers. Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary)

So clearly "spiritual wisdom" is no guarantee that one will walk worthy, but needs to be affect our heart decisions in order to be practical. How are you doing in this area? Or, are you like "wise" King Solomon, filled with "spiritual wisdom" and yet choosing to walk in a manner counter to God's clearly revealed will? Bible study won't do you much good unless it transforms your thinking and your walk. True spiritual wisdom must affect your daily life. Wisdom and practical intelligence must go together.

James writes that when we find ourselves in trials and are uncertain how to behave "if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him" (Jas 1:5-note). God gives wisdom to those who ask Him, provided they are sincerely willing to obey Him (Jas 1:6-note). It is amazing that the same spiritual wisdom which motivated Christ during His earthly ministry is available to Christians now.

Paul and Timothy are praying for "wisdom" for the Colossian saints, but it is not just any wisdom but that which is “spiritual.” The wisdom in which the false teachers boasted had to do with "matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence" (Col 2:23-note, cf Col 2:8-note Col 2:18- note)

In other words their wisdom was for "show" and clearly had no redeeming value in regard to denying self and living a genuinely holy life.

True "spiritual wisdom" is in contrast to "fleshly wisdom" or wisdom pertaining to what is human or characteristic of human nature as Paul mentioned in (2Cor 1:12)

Wiersbe - Spiritual intelligence is the beginning of a successful, fruitful Christian life. God puts no premium on ignorance. I once heard a preacher say, "I didn't never go to school. I'm just a igerant Christian, and I'm glad I is!" A man does not have to go to school to gain spiritual intelligence; but neither should he magnify his "igerance." Great men of God like Charles Spurgeon, G. Campbell Morgan, and H. A. Ironside never had the privilege of formal Bible training. But they were devoted students of the Word, learning its deeper truths through hours of study, meditation, and prayer. The first step toward fullness of life is spiritual intelligence—growing in the will of God by knowing the Word of God.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) defined divine wisdom as ""that attribute by which God arranges His purposes and His plans, and arranges the means which bring forth the results that He purposes."

A.W. Tozer said that "Wisdom … is the ability to devise perfect ends and to achieve those ends by the most perfect means."

Billy Graham said that "Knowledge is horizontal. Wisdom is vertical—it comes down from above."

C H Spurgeon said that "Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom."

James describes the most debased form of wisdom as that which is "earthly, natural, demonic" and is associated ungodly behavior such as "jealousy and selfish ambition… , disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy." (Jas 3:15-17).

Billy Graham commented that "Knowledge is horizontal. Wisdom is vertical—it comes down from above."

Wisdom which is spiritual is spoken of again in this epistle in Colossians where Paul says "we proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, that we may present every man complete in Christ." (Col 1:28-note).

Contrast the outcome of teaching with spiritual wisdom with that associated with the other types of wisdom mentioned above.

Again in (Col 3:16-note) we see that "spiritual wisdom" is associated with letting "the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another."

In (Col 4:5-note) Paul brings out the practical aspect of "spiritual wisdom" exhorting the Colossians "Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity." The NLT phrases it "Live wisely among those who are not Christians and make the most of every opportunity."

In Deuteronomy, just before the children of Israel (who were to be "lights" to the lost Gentiles all around them) went into the promised land, Moses exhorted them to "keep and do them, (statutes & judgments - faithfully obey them) for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people." (Dt 4:6) If the Israelites had walked in a manner worthy of the Mosaic Law, their behavior and lifestyle would have displayed their godly wisdom to the Gentiles all around. Unfortunately, not only did Israel for the most part not walk worthy, but they even behaved worse than the pagans around them!

The Hebrew idea of wisdom is the practical application of the knowledge of God's will to the multi-colored situations of real life. Wisdom then, in a sense, is the ability to see something from God’s viewpoint and to respond accordingly. Paul did not want the Colossians to be filled with "head knowledge" but "spiritual wisdom" necessary for making decisions in light of eternity and thus living to please God. Beware when someone gives you a tape set of ''deeper truths'' for these will more often then not detour you from simply walking in a manner worthy of the Lord to please Him in all respects. Instead of getting burning hearts of devotion to Christ (Lk 24:32) these folks get big heads and can create big problems in a church body in a short time.

All Biblical truth is practical, not theoretical so that if we are growing in knowledge, we should also

"grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen." (2Pe 3:18-note).

How is your spiritual "garden" growing?… in grace or infested (with weeds of sin)!?

I like how someone described wisdom "Wisdom is the quality that keeps you from getting into situations where you need it.

In Knowing God, J. I. Packer wrote that "Wisdom is the power to see and the inclination to choose the best and highest goal, together with the surest means of attaining it."

C H Spurgeon once quipped that "The doorstep to the temple of wisdom is a knowledge of our own ignorance.

Watson - Wisdom is put for that prudence and discretion which enables a man to perceive that which is fit to be done, according to the circumstances of time, place, persons, manners, and end of doing (Wisdom - Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary)

A W Tozer reminds us that Jesus "is the fountain of all wisdom, but He is more—He is wisdom itself. In Him are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden away!"

Charles Swindoll has some wise advice about "wisdom" warning us not to "expect wisdom to come into your life like great chunks of rock on a conveyor belt. It isn’t like that. It’s not splashy and bold … nor is it dispensed like a prescription across a counter. Wisdom comes privately from God as a by-product of right decisions, godly reactions, and the application of spiritual principles to daily circumstances. Wisdom comes … not from trying to do great things for God … but more from being faithful to the small, obscure tasks few people ever see."

True wisdom consists principally of two parts: the knowledge of God, and the knowledge of ourselves! —John Calvin

More resources on Wisdom

Wisdom - Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Wisdom - Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Wisdom - Bridgeway Bible Dictionary

Wisdom - Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology

Our Daily Bread devotional = "Wisdom from Above" = Wisdom is the principle thing; therefore, get wisdom; get understanding. Proverbs 4:7 = A series of cartoons in a New York newspaper depicted a young woman, garbed in cap and gown, holding a diploma with much pride. With her head held high she is looking down her nose at "Mr. World," while that cold, cruel cynic is saying, "Well, who do we have here?" Next, with shoulders thrown back, the young lady replies, "Certainly you know who I am. I'm Cecelia Shakespeare Doaks, a graduate of Prestige College. I have my A.B." "My dear child," Mr. World says in reply, "come with me, and I'll teach you the rest of the alphabet!" Now, we certainly would not discourage the quest for learning, nor the desire to pursue an education to meet the demands and opportunities of life — we would encourage it! But it's important to remember that there is more involved in a well-rounded education than the completion of some college courses. Four years of classroom instruction, even under the most competent teachers, doesn't make one all-wise. The "school of hard knocks" often makes a far greater impact than the "university of hard facts." Even with the best education and down-to-earth, practical experience, however, a man or woman really "knows" nothing apart from God. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Pr 9:10). Knowledge is the acquisition of facts. Wisdom is the ability to use this knowledge rightly. A person may acquire much knowledge, but without wisdom his acquired storehouse of facts will do him little good; in fact, it may even be spiritually harmful to him. Get an education? Yes, but also seek for that wisdom which is from above. James tells us, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God … and it shall be given him" (James 1:5). "Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him show out of a good life [behavior] his works with meekness of wisdom" (James 3:13). (Our Daily Bread)

A man may store his mind with facts,
Till knowledge from it overflows,
But lacking wisdom from Above,
He's still a "fool" till Christ he knows.

Devotionals on wisdom from Our Daily Bread:

Wise Counsel

Growing wise


Treasure Hunter

Don’t Be Deceived!

The Path Of Wisdom

Information Isn't Wisdom

How Do You Know?

Foolish Knowledge

Which Wisdom?

The Smart House

Beyond Information

Gold Rush

In Honor Of Barking Dogs

Listen And Learn

The Main Goal Of Life

The Wisdom Of Age

Are You Searching For Wisdom?

A Little Foolish


And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding (dianoia), in order that (Ed: Explains why Jesus has given us the gift of understanding spiritual truths) we might know (ginosko - by experience) Him Who is true, and we are in Him (God the Father) Who is true, (NIV adds "even in") in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. (1Jn 5:20)

Disciple's Study Bible - Only believers know the truth, for truth is not abstract knowledge. Truth is personal and is revealed only in the Person of Jesus Christ.

Spiritual wisdom and understanding - These two words are frequently found together (see Exodus 31:3KJV; Deuteronomy 4:6; 1Chronicles 22:12KJV; 2Chronicles 1:10KJV; Isaiah 11:2; Isa 29:14KJV;1 Corinthians 1:19KJV

R Kent Hughes makes an appeal with which I strongly concur - "Typically when we pray for ourselves or for others, we pray for physical health, well-being, social relationships, and spiritual growth. But part of our intercessory prayers ought to be for "the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding." Have you prayed like this for others? It is an important prayer for your pastor, for new believers, for your family members. And we ought to be part of the answer to our own prayers! Every believer should be reading and meditating on God's Word. The very blood they bleed ought, in Spurgeon's words, to be "bibline." Every Christian should be concentrating when he or she hears the preaching of God's Word. Every believer should be able to filter his culture's seductive gnosis through the grid of God's epignosis. (Hughes, R. K. Colossians and Philemon: The Supremacy of Christ: Crossway Books). (Bolding and color added for emphasis)

Spurgeon - The Colossian church needed understanding as much as that of Philippi needed unity; the brethren were too easily duped and decoyed from the gospel. We need in these days to know the gospel well, and hold it firmly; for many deceivers are abroad who will mislead us if we permit them to do so.

Ironside - Wisdom, which is the ability to use knowledge correctly, is imparted by the Spirit; He alone gives true understanding. The mind of God as revealed in His Word can be comprehended when there is subjection of heart to the divine Teacher and when there is that self-judgment and self-distrust which lead one to walk softly before God—not in self-will or egotism, but in humility and lowly dependence on the One who inspired the Holy Scriptures, which alone can make the simple wise. God opens up His truth to us so that we may delight in the wondrous things He has revealed and so that we may walk in the power of the knowledge He has given. So Paul prayed that his readers "might walk worthy of the Lord" (Colossians 1:10). We can only "walk worthy of the Lord" as we know His mind. The study of His Word and a godly walk should always go together. (Colossians 1 - Ironside's Notes)

Intellectual enlightenment of various types was offered by the false teachers in Colossae (cf. Col 2:4, Col 2:8, Col 2:16-23). Thus Paul prays that the Colossian saints will have the wisdom and understanding that comes only from the Spirit of God, which will fortify (and give discernment to) their minds and hearts against the verbal onslaughts of the false teachers.

Lucas - these two words (wisdom and understanding) are used to describe the qualities David asked for his son Solomon as he took charge over Israel (1Chr 22:12KJV), and that Solomon himself asked for in the light of his vast responsibilities (2Chronicles 1:10KJV). Faced daily with difficult problems, and often even more difficult people, Solomon must know how to relate the unchanging principles of God’s will, revealed in the law, to the present and quickly changing questions of the day. For such work the best wisdom of the world is insufficient. (Lucas, R. C. Fullness & Freedom: The Message of Colossians & Philemon. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press)